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Times of India
21 February 2011
By Santosh Singh
Patna, India

Scheme to include OPD facilities, free medicines, referral and treatment in AIIMS
Scheme is a first in the country.Scheme is a first in the country.
BIHAR is set to become the first state in the coun try to issue health cards to 3.4 crore children in the age group of 0–14 years. Besides offering OPD facilities and free medicines, the health card, which will be vaild for five years, will also facilitate specialised medical treatment in premier hospitals like AIIMS, PGIMER Chandi garh and SGPGI Lucknow.

While some states already have health card schemes for school–going children in the age group of 6–14 years, Bihar is the first to include those less than six years old. The scheme –Nayi Pidhi Swasthya Guarantee Yojana –will also include adolescent girls below 18 years to focus on malnutrition.

The scheme will be launched on March 22, on the occasion of Bihar Diwas. The cards will be issued at the 70,000 state schools and 11,000 health sub–centres and additional public healthcare centres across the state in the next four months.

"It is such a huge exercise that it will take at least four months. We have to rotate our workforce to cover all villages," said Amarjit Sinha, principal secretary, health.

While medical camps will be organised every year –for which the government has earmarked an annual budget of Rs 125 crore, the health cards will enable parents to seek follow–up treatment for their children at PHCs or block hospitals. Moreover, serious medical complications will be referred to the country’s premier institutes, with the government bearing the expenses.

Pointing out that it is difficult to monitor children in the 0–6 years age group under the existing system, Sinha said the health card scheme would help treat several medical problems at initial stages.

"WHO and Lancet reports, as well as random findings from state hopsitals, show that most students have eyesight, dental and skin problems. Cleft lips and congenital heart diseases, and even diabetes and hypertension, were detected in some school–children. A health card can help us monitor the next generation," he said.

The health card will have full data in cluding weight, height, ENT and dental records. Skin disease tests will be mandatory. "Bihar society still treats skin disease as a stigma. While our main focus will be overall health, the government has made special provisions to refer serious cases to any premier institutes like AIIMS," said Sinha.

According to WHO, 55 per cent of Indian children suffer from malnutritionrelated diseases before attaining the age of three years. The percentage could be higher in Bihar.

Sinha said Chief Minister Nitish Kumar stressed on including the 0–6 years age group so that they could be treated for congenital cases of cleft lips, which can be easily corrected through surgery.

"Though we are still looking for a punchline, it will be connected with the theme of a healthy new generation for healthier Bihar," he said.

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